On Popes, phenomenology and HPB
The relevance of the philosophical school of phenomenology for theosophy and other spiritual traditions is a prominent theme on the Alpheus web site. To bolster the argument I sometimes refer to the fruitful way religious thinkers have used phenomenology for deepening the self-understanding of their own tradition.
For example, not far from the Theosophical Society in America is the very Calvinist Wheaton College, which has a strong ‘continental’ philosophy department lead by Prof. Bruce Benson, a phenomenologist of repute. He wrote some deep studies on the experience of prayer and musical improvisation. He is also the co-founder of The Society for Continental Philosophy and Theology, with ‘Continental’ here basically meaning phenomenology and allied offshoots schools like existentialism and post-modernism.
Catholics also have a strong voice in their midst in favor of phenomenology and that is nobody less than Karol Wojtyla, the late Pope John Paul II. He was a trained philosopher in the phenomenological tradition and was the author of “The Acting Person: A Contribution to Phenomenological Anthropology,” which was published in Poland in 1969 and is considered his most important philosophical work. The Dutch publisher D. Reidel & co. published the English translation in 1979. I found the work by looking into the philosophical publications of Reidel, as my father was their VP and I had become aware of the many important phenomenological studies Reidel had published. After studying a little bit of Wojtyla’s ‘personalism,’ as his strand of thought was named, my perception of him was radically changed from seeing him as merely a somewhat enlightened pope to an endearingly loyal Catholic with a deep philosophical understanding of personhood and responsibility.
Now, on top of that, that perception might have to be calibrated with some very intriguing information regarding Wojtyla’s mentor in both acting and phenomenology during his formative years, Wadowice Kotlarczyk, who apparently had an interest in Theosophy and might have transmitted also some un-orthodox ideas regarding he origin of religions to the future pope. This information came to me thanks to the vigilance of a Catholic fundamentalist organization, Tradition In Action, which would obviously find reason for concern in finding such a connection. They stated, and provided sources, that it
happens that Kotlarczyk was inspired by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the Russian founder of modern Theosophism. Blavatsky, like Wojtyla, taught that the religions are very similar to one another, all coming from the same first source.
This early, indirect influence of esotericism on his life might provide the historical background of the rumor that Wojtyla was a secret member of a Rosicrucian organization, which is not too far-fetched as there is a persistent allegation that the Vatican harbors its own Masonic lodge, named appropriately Lodge Ecclesia. Of course, officially, the Catholic Church is anti-Masonic, but in the grey underground milieu of semi-secret esoteric, religious and political societies, there is a busy going to-and-fro of infiltrators, counter-infiltrators, hostile take-overs, secret conversions, double agents, etc., etc.
A similar rumor of a Rosicrucian connection exists regarding Angelo Roncalli, aka Pope John XXIII of Vatican II fame, and both popes are said, according to different Ascended Master groups, to have been secret initiates of the Occult Hierarchy on the inner realm, both even having gone through, after their demise, the 5th initiation of the Ascension. Quite a stretch, but not impossible, as we still know very little on how the Masters actually work on occult levels with their agents and emissaries in this world and how they try to guide humanity securely through its petulant infancy.